No One Can Really Tell The Truth Like John Walsh
This Settlement means WHAT? …
Tuesday, April 7, 2015
We’ve read about the $1.3 Billion settlement for repairing the City’s sidewalks. We see people writing articles lauding the settlement.
Here we go again. Another round of mass deception. We found it highly suspicious that no media outlet identified the lawsuit. We read articles saying how great it was, but there was no way to verify any of the claims. That’s because once again, they’re bogus. Fool me once, shame on you; fool 7,000 times shame on me. How often will Angelenos fall for the same ploy?
It took some research, but the case which the City, the LA Times and other media outlets have so carefully concealed has been located. It is Willits v City of Los Angeles, Central District Court of California [Los Angeles] case number CV 10-05782 CBM (Rzx). Following is what we have been able to download from the federal court itself. The judge is Judge Consuelo Marshall.
Generally, these proposed settlements are kept secret as publicity can interfere with negotiations. There are serious questions whether lawsuits which are allegedly designed to benefit the public should be secret. While one can envision the need for the parties during litigation to have their rights to confidentiality. The United States does provide for an adversarial system.
The need to have secrecy in an adversarial system is obvious. It’s no different than a football game where coaches are not supposed to eavesdrop on the other teams’ private communications. [Hello, Boston Patriots]
However, the public is not an adversary in this proceeding, and if the plaintiffs and the City have reached a settlement, why the continued secrecy? Is the tax payer the enemy? Of course, the public is the enemy. We’re the who are being duped!
The articles do reveal that the City is paying $15 Million in attorney fees and costs. We are being asked to pay $15 Million and yet we are not allowed to see what we are really buying for the $15 Million. The Hollywood Community Plan farce of a lawsuit only cost the City about $2 Million and it affects more than $1.3 Billion in development.
By its extensive lobbying efforts in behalf of approval of the settlement, the City has stepped outside the bounds of its privileges of confidentiality. So too have plaintiff attorneys Guy Wallace (State Bar # 176151) and Kevin E. Gilbert (State Bar #209236) by joining with the City to selectively disclose so many of the alleged terms of the settlement agreement. When the law provides the protection of confidentiality, that protection can be lost by being a blabbermouth. That is what the parties to this litigation have done.
By the City’s and the Plaintiffs attorneys’ disclosing allegedly material terms of the settlement agreement, they have lost whatever privileges may normally exist for proposed settlement agreements. Based upon The City’s media representations, many citizens may urge their councilmembers to approve this settlement.
Let’s see what the city is disclosing
The media reports: “Mayor Eric Garcetti said he believed the spending would be enough to stay ahead of any ongoing deterioration of aging city sidewalks.”
This claim is bogus on its face. How can sidewalks which require over $1.5 Billion in repairs in 2013 dollars have their deterioration stayed by spending a few million per year? http://lat.ms/1JluUbt (Streets needed $3 B and sidewalks needed $1.5 B in 2013)
If we fixed all the sidewalks in CD 10 this year, how would that slow down the deterioration in the other 14 council districts? The Mayor’s claim is preposterous on its face. If the mayor is not materially misrepresenting the impact of the settlement agreement, let’s see the portion of the settlement agreement where the deterioration will be stayed. They will not show it to us because it does not exist!
What is the rate of sidewalk deterioration?
It could be well over $30 Million per year. As we know the Ficus trees do dramatically more damage to city sidewalks as they age and a stitch in time saves nine. Since the City admits that its been doing nothing for years and the trees continue to mature, how much additional cost is added each year?
On what data is the settlement based?
In August 2013 which is less than two years ago, Councilmember Buscaino’s Office said, “The city does not have a comprehensive list of damaged sidewalks, and officials have said that creating one would cost $10 million and take three years. Los Angeles can’t borrow money to fix sidewalks until it can identify which ones are broken, a Buscaino spokesman said.” http://lat.ms/1JluUbt
Was Councilmember Buscaino’s Office lying in August 2013 when he said there was no comprehensive list and it would take $10 Million and 3 years to compile one or is this settlement without factual foundation? Let’s remember that another judge found that Garcetti’s data for the Hollywood Community Plan was fatally defective and based on wishful thinking to the point that it subverted the law. (January 15, 2014, Statement of Decision in Hollywood Community Plan litigation)
The media reports: “The city plans to start by repairing sidewalks around parks and other city facilities, but will also fix walkways in other areas that are heavily trafficked, close to hospitals or workplaces, or requested by people with mobility challenges, including those alongside homes, Santana said.”
This makes some sense, but it is too vague to be meaningful. Again, we see no mention that the sidewalks and streets which are subject to the worse deterioration will receive any priority. A basic element in any triage is that the most injured are tended to first.
How will we paid for these repairs?
It is absurd to enter into any agreement and be silent about how it will be performed. Is the $31 Million NEW money or is it only $4 million over the $27 Million in the 2014 budget?
The article says that the City may reduce its cash out lay to $20 Million for year one (2015-2016). That is $7 Million less than was allegedly allocated for 2014. In future years The City is obligated to spend at least $25 Million which is reportedly $2 Million less than 2013-2014. Why are we hailing as great an agreement which allows the City to REDUCE the money it spends on sidewalk repairs?
In 2012, Garcetti used Deployment Report based on false data to reduce the number of paramedics. A year later in June 2013, the Los Angeles Grand Jury found that when Garcetti and the rest of the city council took the money away from the paramedics, people needlessly died as a direct result.
March 30, 2015 Terms of Agreement for Willits Case
After hours of searching, we found a vital document, The City of Los Angeles’ March 30, 2015 Terms of Agreement, which the media decided not to share with the public or which they were too lazy to find for themselves. It is eight pages where nothing is certain except that the attorneys get $15 Million. PDF of the TERM SHEET_2015
Prioritization of Access Improvements
At first, the priority of repairs looks reasonable, but after a little analysis, we see that it is another multi-million dollar give-away to the mega developers. The repair priorities are:
1. City of Los Angeles government offices and facilities;
Our translation of what this means — The City will repair the sidewalks where it has the greatest liability for being sued and not the sidewalks which most need repair.
2. Transportation corridors;
This means the mega-developers like CIM Group an d its Hollywood-Highland Project. These developers maintain their sidewalks because they have deep pockets and they know that the likelihood of their being sued for a bad sidewalk is very high. By prioritizing the sidewalks for which the billionaire developers now pay, the City will be taking that financial burden off the developers who support everyone in City Hall. That would be the likes of The Millennium Project and its Earthquake Towers.
3. Hospitals, medical facilities, assisted living facilities and other similar facilities;
These businesses almost always pay for their own sidewalks. It appears that the City is assuming these costs and reducing the funds available for other services, e.g. paramedics to get people who trip and fall in residential sidewalks to the hospitals
4. Places of public accommodation such as commercial and business zones;
Again, these places are very likely to repair their own sidewalks. The City appears to be taking on the burden of the businesses.
5. Facilities containing employers; and,
This is so vague that it sounds like a catch-all category or “other people who contribute to the mayor’s campaign.”
6. Other areas, such as residential neighborhoods and undeveloped areas
Finally, the place where we probably have the worse sidewalks and the abutting property owners have the least amount of funds to repair.
That’s right – there is no provision for how the City will pay
It can take money from tree trimming or libraries or parks or paramedics. It may assess property owners or it may assess only homeowners but not assess the mega-developers.
What happens if the City does not repair any sidewalls?
Apparently, nothing. No enforcement is mentioned.
What can Angelenos do?
It appears that the Court will be holding a hearing within the next few weeks to approve or reject the settlement.
We can be left out and be subjected to more fraud or we can speak up. If you do NOT want to be a continual victim of City Hall’s back room deals, write to:
The Honorable Consuelo Marshall
United States District Court
Courtroom 2-2nd Floor
312 North Spring Street
Los Angeles, California 90012-4701
Re: Willits v City of Los Angeles, Case #: CV 10-015782 CBM (RZx)
You can tell the judge your thoughts about this particular settlement. For one it is unduly vague and the only definite obligation is to pay money to the attorneys.
In the last few days, The City has done a disingenuous snow job on the public by making material representations about the settlement, about what it will cost, and about how it will benefit anyone other than the plaintiffs’ attorneys.